The Business of Radio: An Interview with ROXY’s Mike Marohn

by Natasha Ashenhurst

We speak with Mike Marohn, majority owner of 94.5 ROXY and former Thurston County Chamber board chair about his career in radio, trends and his predictions for its future.

According to market researcher IMARK, radio advertising represents one of the oldest forms of advertising globally and is relatively inexpensive compared to other channels. Despite the current attention toward online ads, radio holds a considerable share in the market. In addition, radio serves as an excellent publicity channel and is preferred by both large and small companies worldwide. They predict the radio advertising market to experience growth over the next five years stating, “One of the significant market trends is the increasing penetration of smartphones and internet facilities, which has led to a rise in online radio audiences.”

According to Insider Intelligence, an advertising data agency, “During the pandemic and ensuing lockdowns, fewer people commuted to work every day, and many local businesses cut their marketing budgets as they fought to stay open. These conditions have strained the radio advertising market, but they expect radio to partially rebound next year, rising 16.8% to $12.18 billion.”

To learn more about the business of radio and to get a local point of view, we spoke with Mike Marohn, the majority owner of 94.5 ROXY. He has spent many years both in and adjacent to the radio industry; including while working as a local financial consultant from which he is now retired.

Mike’s love of radio began when he was a high school student at North Thurston High School in Lacey, Washington. “A friend and I decided to put on dances and to advertise on the radio. We wrote and voiced the commercials. Later, when I was going to college someone told me I had a good voice for radio and I ended up volunteering as a DJ on campus radio. Later that resulted in getting a job doing the midnight to 6:00 A.M. slot and the morning news for a radio station in Atlanta, Georgia,” he said.

Mike attended three different colleges and found work on the air everywhere he went. However, his focus shifted when he discovered that stations were charging $30 for a 30-second commercial spot. He compared ad revenue to his hourly wage of $2.50 and realized he was on the wrong side of the microphone.

“I’ve been on the ownership side of radio since the early 1990s,” he said. “When a frequency in the Olympia area became available, we developed 94.5 ROXY. It has evolved since then, going through a change in ownership in 2012 and in 2016 we acquired high definition stations 100.3 and 101.9.”

A Short History of the Business of Radio

In the 1980s and 90s, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) limited the number of stations a company could own in a single market to just two.

Today, conglomerates can own up to five stations in a market. This change has led to several large corporations currently dominating the American radio business.

The way radio stations make money has also changed. In the 1980s, radio’s main competition was newspaper advertising. In the 1990s, it was newspaper and cable. In the 2010s, streaming audio and online advertising became viable competitors, but some radio stations evolved to diversify revenue streams through digital advertising, web streaming, video production and inter-media partnerships.

Will Radio Remain Relevant? YES! – It’s Hyper-Local

Mike believes that because radio stations such as ROXY epitomize hyper-local media focus, and the owners live and work locally, they know the business community. “We are involved in the community. We know our audience and therefore can tailor messaging to help business attract customers. Social media can give the illusion of granularity, but they are really just taking a shotgun approach and hoping they hit something,” Mike said.

Future Trends

He challenges anyone to name a top-performing brand that focuses on only one advertising channel. “We know it can be intimidating to market your business with all the options out there, but that is exactly what we can do for you and we’ve been in this business for a long time. We work with our clients to understand what they want to accomplish and achieve their goals, regardless of the medium.”

He believes that businesses need to serve existing customers and find new customers where customers are—which today means everywhere. Companies can’t afford to focus on one advertising medium; they must include digital, print and radio in their advertising mix.

“The demise of radio has been predicted for the last 40 or 50 years, but it survives because it is local and accessible,” said Mike, “As long as we’re able to serve this community and help businesses grow, we’ll remain relevant.”

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